25 September 2012: Party of Regions MP Vitaly Zhuravsky decided to withdraw his bill on libel. As reported by online resource Ukrainska Prvada, he declared that « after weighing all current circumstances and on the basis of public interest, I have decided to withdraw this bill. I understand that on the eve of parliamentary elections, any initiative may be perceived with at least some fear and distrust ».
The MP still sticks to his position though. « I decided today to withdraw this issue from the legal level, yet not on the political one. I stay on the same political positions and beliefs, that in our society a greater responsibility for attacks against the the honor and dignity of every person, not just politicians, is long overdue ». Once the elections held, he intends to raise the issue once again, organize a series of round tables and eventually submit a new bill to the Verkhovna Rada (Parliament). Provided he is re-elected.
The law on libel had been adopted in first reading by the ruling Party of Regions on 18 September. It instaured severe sanctions against any act of defamation and attacks against dignity and honor. As for « information published openly in the media », penalties were up to 1.500 times the Ukrainian minimum salary and up to 3 years in jail.
The movehas been widely seen as a deliberate restriction of the freedom of the press, already considered as under pressure under the presidency of Viktor Yanukovich. The journalists’ organization « Stop Censorship! » considered it as a « serious regreession ». According to « Reporters without Borders », the spirit of the law was « aimed at curbing the independent media and encouraging self-censorship on the part of journalist ». The Secretary General of the Council of Europe, Thorbjorn Jagland, had urged the Ukrainian lawmakers to reject « this attempt to stifle media freedom, which is an essential precondition for a functioning democracy ». Even the President Yanukovich himself came to admit that adopting the law on libel in first reading was a mistake. From New-York, where he attends the United Nations general assembly, he commented on the withdrawal of the bill: « He [Vitaliy Zhuravsky] wants to correct his own mistake. And the parliamentarians must have not understood the documents when they voted for them ».